|Tuesday, February 5
Max: Dominant Jones is one of greatest ever
By Max Kellerman
Special to ESPN.com
Fifty years from now, there will be another who is compared to him. The type of phenom who dominates so thoroughly and with such ease that a future generation of boxing fans will proclaim him a candidate for Most Talented Fighter Ever. And we who are still around will throw cold water on that proclamation by saying, "Son, I once saw Roy Jones Jr. knock a man out with his hands behind his back." Thank God for video tape.
Bernard Hopkins set the all-time record for middleweight title defenses by thoroughly dominating and eventually stopping the very solid Carl Daniels. Hopkins broke Carlos Monzon's record of 14 defenses, a record he had tied in his last fight, a knockout of Felix Trinidad. In his last three fights, against Keith Holmes, Trinidad and Daniels, Hopkins has arguably not lost a round (by my count he's lost only three or four out of 33). Holmes is good fighter, so is Daniels, and Trinidad is a great one. Very impressive stuff from our middleweight champ. In fact, the three most dominant middleweight champions of the last 35 years have been Carlos Monzon (champ 1970-1977), Marvin Hagler (champ 1979-1987) and Bernard Hopkins (champ 1994-2002 and counting). Lucky for Monzon and Hagler that they did not have to compete against Roy Jones Jr.
Anyone who competes against Roy loses. He has unfair natural, physical advantages in speed and power. And he combines his advantages with his own brand of unorthodox skill. Emanuel Steward pointed out during Roy's demolition of Glen Kelly (the recipient of RJ's the-hands-behind-the-back-are-quicker-than-the-eye trick) that Thomas Hearns' style would have created problems for Roy, and Steward is probably right. There are always fighters one can chose throughout history that had the right style to give another fighter trouble. So Hearns would have given Roy trouble. Maybe. Roy would have smoked Sugar Ray Leonard. He would have easily out-slicked Marvin Hagler. The question is whether gigantic light heavyweights like Bob Foster and Michael Spinks could have beaten Roy Jones. The real question is whether they could have even hit him.
Bernard Hopkins is like a Don Mattingly or an Emmitt Smith. Mattingly and Smith were the best their sports had to offer in a given era. In their primes they were both great. But neither made us imagine that we might be watching the greatest who ever did it. Bernard Hopkins fits right in with the greatest middleweights from any era. Roy Jones Jr. makes us wonder if we are watching the greatest fighter of all-time. Roy draws comparisons not only with Sugar Ray Robinson, but with Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan.
Does Roy Jones deserve this kind of electronic press after playing with an overmatched, some would argue "club" fighter like Glen Kelly (even if Kelly is really a cruiserweight in light heavyweight's clothing)? Does Roy's stunt against Kelly deserve to lead this article over Hopkins domination against Daniels? No and no. But I cannot help it.
I thought when Roy dropped Kelly with a left hand to the body, that the most spectacular thing he would do that night had just occurred. But in the seventh round, Roy retreated to the ropes, put both hands behind his back and leaned forward. Kelly threw two punches. Roy slipped them both and then tossed a lightning quick, half-hearted right hand -- almost an afterthought -- as he was moving away to his right. The punch landed high on Kelly's head and ended the fight. One of the most spectacular things I have ever seen in a boxing ring.
So what you say? It's only Glen Kelly, not a top guy in the division. Fine. Do not put the clip of Roy knocking out Kelly alongside the clips of the right hand that floored Reggie Johnson, the left hand that knocked out Montell Griffin, and the right to the body that knocked out Virgil Hill, three of the top 10 guys at light heavyweight over the last 10 years. Y'all must've forgot.
I have debated a lot of boxing with Russell Peltz, the famous promoter out of Philadelphia. Russell is the guy who put together those great fights at the Blue Horizon for USA Network's old Tuesday Night Fights. He has since served as ESPN2's matchmaker for our Friday Night Fights series. One time we were debating the current state of the game and he told me that the super middleweight division is underrated, and then in the next breath that Roy Jones Jr. is overrated. The super middleweight division, he told me, had fighters like Sven Ottke, (who Russell and I agreed is a very good fighter and is probably the class of the 168-pound division), and Thomas Tate, a world-class fighter who lost a controversial fight to Ottke in Germany for Ottke's super middleweight belt. Roy defended his middleweight title against Tate in 1994, and it was mismatch. Roy blew him out in two rounds. How can Roy be overrated when one of the top dogs in an underrated division couldn't survive the second round against him?
I do not think that Bernard Hopkins can beat Roy Jones. However, out of every fighter in the world south of heavyweight, Hopkins has the best chance to do it. I thought the same thing about Shane Mosley and Vernon Forrest, that Shane would win, but if anyone could beat Shane it was Vernon. Vernon beat Shane. Roy wants a 60/40 split for a fight with Bernard. Bernard wants to split up the money 50/50. Why don't we call it 55/45 and get this thing on.
Max Kellerman is a studio analyst for ESPN2's Friday Night Fights.